Autism Today Foundation

Joint Attention Therapy for Autism

Joint Attention Therapy for Autism

Many studies give evidence that many people with autism have difficulty with joint attention, which is the ability to share focus on an object or area with another person. Following another persons gaze, or sharing focus with another person to look on an object is defined as joint attention.

For young children with autism, the most important skills to master is interacting with other persons successfully. Everyday interactions with caregivers provide an excellent opportunity for children to perfect such skills. As a result, the more they engage with  key figures in their life, the more practice they have at mastering the skill of successful social interaction.

In addition to physical social interaction with others, children need to develop joint attention skills while engaging with others. In typical development, this happens organically.

  • In the first few months, babies pay attention to people when they are face-to-face with them
  • At five to six months, babies start giving attention to items around them.
  • As caregivers notice this, they engage the baby as he or she is exploring and playing with objects. This process paves the way for joint engagement to emerge.

As joint engagement first emerges, the child and caregiver pay attention to the same object and take turns playing with it and interacting with it. However the child doesn’t start responding to the caregiver’s actions or words immediately. the child is, on the other hand, aware of the adult and there is an unspoken understanding that they both are engaging together with the same thing.

As development continues, the child begins to acknowledge the caregiver by making eye contact and using gestures, such as “showing” or giving the caregiver an object while playing. These interactions become a source of joy and amusement for the child and he discovers that including people in his play with objects can be a lot of fun!

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